Maturity of the believer is measured, not in his position in reference to sin's guilt, which is all settled at rebirth, but in his liberation from sin's oppression, which will be commensurate with the level of God dependence!
The calling and position of the believer now is heavenly, but as he is on the earth, his experiences are necessarily how grace forms and separates him from what is simply natural to him, and enables him to be true to his new standing is a scene to which he once so entirely belonged.
Hence there is first the entering into the liberty wherewith Christ had made him free, before he enjoys his new position, or can truly walk according to it here. For that very progress in grace which introduces him into heavenly joys, demands and empowers him to be true to it in his walk here. But as he is still on earth, where the world is directly against God, the more heavenly he is, the more he feels that he is in the wilderness.
Many on first reaching the liberty and rest of the heavenly standing fail, and are subjected to the captivity of the world, because they have not continued in dependence upon the Father. It is not after His manner to raise us up through grace to a great moral height, and to suffer us to be less dependent upon Him who has so elevated us, and less opposed by the flesh, which is enmity against God.
The great teaching of the wilderness is dependence upon the Father. The really heavenly man must in a scene like this be the most dependent man; and whenever anyone learns his position truly, and walks in it conscientiously, he ever finds that new circumstances or trials occur, to keep him dependent; so that the truest heavenly man’s the best wilderness man.
Now many are not preserved as Paul was from being lifted up in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7—NC). If Paul’s flesh could have been puffed up after all he had learned of the Lord, how much more those who know much less of the power of the Spirit of God? Everyone, according as he is enlightened, if he walks in the light, would see that he was called to new exercises and that he requires help from the Lord in a way unknown before. If he becomes indifferent to these new trials—that is, if they have not the effect of continuing and promoting he dependence, he is allowed to discover his weakness by some open failure.
Jacob, for instance, returns to Canaan, and while he is dependent, is largely succored there; but as soon as he is relieved of the presence of Esau, he essays to settle down and enjoy himself, as if the rest had fully come. He is not irreligious, nor does he surrender any truth which he had learned, but he is no longer dependent; he loses sight of the true way for a heavenly man on the earth, which is continued dependence and not calculating that the day of trial is over, and that he can now derive everything from the earth.
This last is not the way of a heavenly man on the earth, but Jacob so calculated, and in consequence, he was subjected to the deepest sorrow at Shalem. The wickedness of the flesh in its worst forms was disclosed there, and the heavenly man has to exclaim, “I shall be destroyed, I and my father’s house.”
From the depths of weakness and humiliation, he has to cry unto God, and when he has reached Bethel, greater sorrows, but more personal ones, await him. Thus we see, that according as we advance into the greatness of our new position in Christ in glory, the more, as we are really honest and happy therein, are we subjected to trials here, to keep as dependent—which is the true condition of the child of God.
J B Stoney